Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is again voicing concern about caffeinated foods. The latest in caffeine-laden food trends is a new caffeinated peanut butter which boasts the equivalent of two cups of coffee in two tablespoons of peanut butter. In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Senator Schumer urged the agency to investigate the effects of an increased presence of caffeinated food products and, in particular, the safety of STEEM’s caffeinated peanut butter product. Schumer is particularly concerned that children could suffer health effects from ingesting too much caffeine (perhaps unknowingly). In 2010, Senator Schumer was involved in the FDA’s decision to send warning letters to four manufacturers of alcoholic beverages containing caffeine because Schumer believed the drinks were packaged to appeal to minors. Those warning letters resulted in each of the four manufacturers ceasing production of their products. Then, earlier this year, Schumer was one of several senators who pushed for a ban on pure powdered caffeine. Now, he urges the agency to consider that an increasing number of “everyday” foods, like Steem Caffeinated Peanut Butter, pose a public health risk, particularly for kids.
Continue Reading Peanut Butter Pick-Me-Up

The cannabis industry is taking a hit.  The nation’s first cannabis product liability lawsuit was filed in Colorado and challenges the cannabis industry’s production process.

Flores v. LivWell Inc., was filed by two marijuana users alleging that the fungicide Eagle 20 was intentionally applied to thousands of marijuana plants at a Denver facility. Plaintiffs Brandan Flores and Brandie Larrabee are seeking class-action status contending that LivWell Inc. (LivWell), one of the largest cannabis growers in the state of Colorado, sold marijuana sprayed with Eagle 20 to medical and recreational customers without adequately warning consumers of the risks associated with Eagle 20. Neither plaintiff alleges they were sickened from ingesting marijuana they purchased at LivWell.
Continue Reading Growing Concerns: Marijuana Industry Hit with Its First Ever Product Liability Lawsuit

On Monday, August 3rd, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first 3D printed pill, signaling a new opportunity for drug makers and 3D printing technology.

Spritam, a medication for epilepsy, is manufactured by Ohio-based pharmaceutical company, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals.  This particular drug has already been on the market, but the new, 3D printed version, is designed to dissolve more rapidly than any other seizure medication.  This new design also allows for a high drug load to be delivered in a single dose, limiting the number of pills necessary.  The 3D printed design may be particularly helpful for children or other patients who have difficulty swallowing large pills.  By layering medication, 3D printing allows the creation of a more porous pill that can dissolve more quickly into liquid.  The pill should be available commercially early in 2016. 
Continue Reading FDA Approves First 3D Printed Pill

In April 2015, Blue Bell Creameries announced a full, nationwide recall of all its products.  It didn’t take long for a lawsuit to be filed.

On Tuesday, the first lawsuit seeking to hold Blue Bell liable for illness caused by listeria-contaminated ice cream was filed in the United States District Court, Western District of Texas. Plaintiff David Philip Shockley seeks unspecified damages in a negligence lawsuit. Shockley says that while living in Houston, Texas, in October 2013, he was hospitalized for respiratory failure and septic shock. Doctors diagnosed him with listeria meningitis with encephalitis and Shockley suffered brain damage. Shockley alleges he regularly ate single serving Blue Bell ice cream, provided by his employer.  In 2013, Mr. Shockley was 31 years old and was employed as a director and administrator at a nursing home/retirement community.
Continue Reading UPDATE: Ice Cream Recall Begets First Lawsuit

The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Allen v. The Boeing Company may pave the way for removal of more mass tort claims to federal court. Allen held that an environmental mass tort occurring over many years is removable under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), finding the “local single event” rule did not apply.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Opens the Door to a Federal Forum for Environmental Mass Torts

On Tuesday, a Los Angeles jury found that Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder caused plaintiff Judith Winkel’s mesothelioma. The jury awarded Mr. and Mrs. Winkel $13 million in damages, finding for plaintiffs on design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, and negligence liability theories. Following the verdict, the parties reached a settlement before the trial’s punitive damages phase began.
Continue Reading Colgate-Palmolive Company Smacked with $13M Talc Verdict

Last night, Texas-based Blue Bell Creamery announced a full, nationwide recall of all its products. This is a significant expansion of the recall Blue Bell began earlier this month after three deaths in Kansas from listeria – the first recall in the company’s 108-year history. The initial recall was limited to specific products, but was expanded to all products after two samples of cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeria. The CDC traced the Kansas cases of listeria to Blue Bell plants in Texas and Oklahoma, but it is still not clear how the contamination began.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause severe, sometimes fatal illness in children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include high fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and stiffness. Currently, ten reported listeria cases are linked to Blue Bell. Five people have been diagnosed in Kansas, one in Oklahoma, three in Texas, and today, the CDC announced an Arizona case.

Continue Reading Grocery Freezers Empty as Blue Bell Conducts Massive Ice Cream Recall

Two recent deaths allegedly resulting from the use of powdered caffeine has led to litigation and a public alert from the FDA, warning consumers of the dangers of the substance. One teaspoon of powdered caffeine is roughly equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. The product is not available in stores, but can be purchased in bulk over the internet.  According to Laura MacCleery, an attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer rights advocacy group, powdered caffeine is the most dangerous dietary supplement on the market.  The FDA reports that symptoms of caffeine overdose can include “rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity.”
Continue Reading Lawsuits Fuel Debate About Powdered Caffeine

In California, a federal judge approved a class certification motion in a suit against ConAgra Food Inc. for alleged mislabeling of its Wesson oil products.  The dispute is based on allegations that ConAgra mislabeled oil as “100% natural.”  Plaintiffs argue the oil is not natural because it contains genetically modified ingredients. Further up the coast in Oregon, voters will decide this fall whether to require genetically modified food sold in the state to be labeled as such.  This issue has come up in several states, including Washington and California, where voters have rejected similar proposals in recent years.

The California case, In re: Conagra Foods Inc., includes certified classes of consumers from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas.  U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow will allow plaintiffs to pursue claims brought under the states’ various consumer protection statutes, but she will not allow an injunctive relief class to proceed.
Continue Reading Updates on West Coast GMO Battles

On the heels of a listeria outbreak associated with caramel apples and a similar proposal by two members of Congress, President Obama has proposed forming a single, centralized federal food safety agency. More than a dozen federal agencies now have authority over food safety issues, although the FDA currently holds the most responsibility. The various agencies’ intersecting roles are seemingly inefficient and confusing. For example, the FDA oversees cheese pizza, but a sub-agency of the USDA handles pepperoni pizza; the FDA is charged with inspecting sausage casings, while the Food Safety and Inspection Services of the USDA inspects the meat inside the sausages.

The Safe Food Act of 2015, introduced last week by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), contemplates forming a single food safety agency, as does Obama’s proposal. The proposed single food agency would handle food safety inspections, research, investigations, labeling regulation, and recalls for all food (produced abroad and at home) distributed in the United States. However, Obama’s proposal would place this agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, while Durbin and DeLauro push for an entirely independent agency. Consumer groups and proponents of the Durbin/DeLauro proposal criticize the idea of adding yet another agency to the overloaded HHS, saying that a new food safety agency would be “lost” within a department so massive.
Continue Reading Food Safety Fears Prompt Proposed Overhaul of Federal Agencies